Unexpectedly Intriguing!
22 April 2009

NASA Alligator (Flipped from Original) We weren't going to do this again. We really weren't. But then we found the statistics that tell how likely it is that an individual will die of an alligator attack in the United States, and that was all she wrote!

All the data in the table below is courtesy of the Florida Museum of Natural History, who was mostly concerned about people's perceptions of the frequency of shark attacks. Being so concerned, the minds at the museum calculated the relative risk of dying as the result of shark attack with respect to other causes of death in the United States.

We've presented their findings in the table below and, where we could, we extended their calculations to find the probability of other causes of death for which they only provided the raw numbers of deaths over a given period of time. Like death by mountain lion. Or death by collapsing sand hole, which not being Floridians, is a cause of death that we had never previously considered.

Annual Risk of Death During One's Lifetime
Fatal Disease or Cause of Death Average Annual Deaths Death Risk During One's Lifetime
Heart Disease 652,486.0 1 in 5.7
Cancer 553,888.0 1 in 6.8
Stroke 150,074.0 1 in 25.0
Hospital Infections 99,000.0 1 in 37.9
Flu 59,664.0 1 in 62.8
Car Accidents 44,757.0 1 in 83.7
Suicide 31,484.0 1 in 119.0
Accidental Poisoning 19,456.0 1 in 192.6
MRSA (Resistant bacteria) 19,000.0 1 in 197.3
Falls 17,229.0 1 in 217.5
Drowning 3,306.0 1 in 1,133.7
Bike Accident 762.0 1 in 4,918.7
Air/Space Accident 742.0 1 in 5,051.3
Excessive Cold 620.0 1 in 6,045.3
Sun/Heat Exposure 273.0 1 in 13,729.2
Vehicular Collision with Deer [1] 130.0 1 in 28,831.3
Bicycle Accident in Florida [2] 114.8 1 in 32,639.2
Hunting Incident 55.1 1 in 67,992.1
Lightning 47.0 1 in 79,746.1
Train Crash 24.0 1 in 156,169.5
Dog Attack [1] 18.0 1 in 208,225.9
Snake Attack [1] 15.0 1 in 249,871.1
Fireworks 11.0 1 in 340,733.4
Attack on Homeless Individual 7.0 1 in 535,438.2
Tornado in Florida 5.4 1 in 695,206.0
Shark Attack 1.0 1 in 3,748,067.1
Collapsing Sand Hole 0.9 1 in 3,982,321.3
Mountain Lion Attack [1] 0.6 1 in 6,246,778.5
Alligator Attack 0.3 1 in 12,077,105.0
Shark Attack in Florida [3] 0.2 1 in 17,241,108.5


[1] Annual Average During 1990s
[2] Bicycling fatalities in Florida account for 15.1% of the total in the United States.
[3] Shark attacks in Florida account for 20% of the total in the U.S.

Clearly, the lesson from these footnotes is to stay away from bicycles in Florida, as they represent over 1 out of every 7 bicycle related deaths in the United States....

About the Odds

We calculated the annual odds of each cause of death using the same method as the Florida Museum of Natural History. We took the annual population of the United States for 2003 (290,850,005) and divided it by the average annual number of each cause of death and the average life expectancy for an individual born in 2003, 77.6 years.

More Death on Political Calculations

We've covered this territory before, as our previous posts on the topic reveal:

  • Mapping Death by Natural Hazard in the U.S. - Charting where you are most likely to be killed by different kinds of environmental factors.
  • The Odds of Dying in the U.S. - The official statistics for a variety of accidental or intentional causes of death from the National Safety Council.
  • The Disproportionate Killers - Our look at the chronic diseases that claim the lives of the black population of the U.S. in disproportionate numbers compared to other ethnic groups. Part of a series of posts where we worked out how a good portion of the racial disparity in life expectancies in the U.S. might be eliminated.
  • Natural Life Expectancy in the U.S. - A comparison of how long Americans live with respect to Europeans, after adjusting for non-health related factors, like vehicle accidents.
  • Estimating Your Life Expectancy - How long might you live if you're an average American? Our tool can provide the answer!
  • How Much Longer Can You Expect to Live? - Our tool will tell you how many years more you're likely to live if you make it to Age X, assuming you're an average American!


About Political Calculations

Welcome to the blogosphere's toolchest! Here, unlike other blogs dedicated to analyzing current events, we create easy-to-use, simple tools to do the math related to them so you can get in on the action too! If you would like to learn more about these tools, or if you would like to contribute ideas to develop for this blog, please e-mail us at:

ironman at politicalcalculations.com

Thanks in advance!

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